Free Text to Speech Options


Review of Free Text to Speech (TTS) Screen/Text Readers

Currently, this is a work in progress as I want to download each product and actually use it to verify the features work as advertised. When I read a list of free products listed as Text to Speech software, I naively assume that all products will match my expectations of TTS which is a big mistake. When a student asks the question of which free product is best, I don’t have any real experience with most of them and don’t have a good answer.  So I am trying them out in alphabetical order noting any problems or challenges I encounter.  My computer is a Windows XP platform and I’m using Firefox version 3.6.18 because some of the Firefox add-ons I use haven’t been updated to work with the latest version of Firefox.

Adobe Reader
Accessibar
BalaBolka
CLicK,Speak
ezTextReader
FireVox
Natural Reader
Non Visual Desktop Access-NDVA
Orato from Fx Software
Orca
PowerTalk
ReadPlease
ReadtheWords
SoftiFreeOC
Spoken Web
Thunder
TypeIt ReadIt
Universal Reader
Word Talk
YakItToMe


Adobe Reader

Adobe ReaderAdobe Reader Download

This was difficult to judge because all of the machines here have Adobe Professional installed on them and the default “Read Outloud” toolbar in to appear in the Professional version.  I’ll try it from home and report back.
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Accessibar


Accessibar
“Accessibar is a toolbar extension for Firefox which aims at providing various accessibility features for users who could benefit from them. These features primarily focus on the dynamic manipulation of the visual display of the web page in addition to the integration of a text to speech reader which can read out loud the browser’s user interface as well as web page content.”
Features:

  • Web page fonts and background colors can be changed from a selecton of 70 colors on current session
  • Full Page Zoom interface now available (for Firefox nightly builds only).
  • Icons with configurable shortcut keys to increase and decrease Font size.
  • Line spacing can be increased or decreased to five different spacing settings incrementally.
  • All images (including Flash) displayed on a web page can be selected as being hiden or shown.
  • All changes made to web page display can be restored to original page settings by pressing “Restore Page“.
  • Changes made to the currently displayed web page persist until “Restore Page“ is selected.
  • Integrated Text To Speech reader. Reads out strings hovered over as well as focused elements.
  • Reader settings can be configured allowing the selection of the voice, volume, speaking rate, pitch, and voice range.
  • Toolbar functions have configurable Hotkeys (keyboard shortcuts).
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Balabolka

Balabolka


BalaBolka

BalaBolka
A zip file to download with no visible tutorials or help files, but has many languages including Russian (BalaBolka is Russian for “chatterer”) and other great features that became apparent after viewing the 3 Balabolka tutorial videos on YouTube.  It is a little cumbersome for reading the web because you need to select the desired text, copy and paste it into an open Balabolka file.  This would be worth pursuing for public access machines in a multi- cultural environment as the choice of languages to be spoken is huge. Superlative for the number of languages it converts.
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CLicK,Speak

Click,Speak logoClickSpeak
A free extension from FireFox for people with print disabilities.  Easy to download and use. Only 3 icons on the toolbar. Alas, no longer supported and it doesn’t work with Windows 7.

UPDATE:   I am so excited by finding this upgrade for the no longer maintained FireFox extension, CLicK,Speak which stopped working with the latest upgrades to FireFox.  I was dependent upon it and asked ITS to install the extension to all of the public access computers in the Landmark College Library which they did and everyone was happy for more than a year.  Some one named, “sortadan” wrote an upgrade v1.6.1 for CLicK, Speak and it took a bit to find the code.  You need to uninstall your old version of ClicK,Speak and restart Firefox, then open  clc_clickspeak_v1.6.1_working.xpi              in Firefox.

I am having trouble finding a way to upload an .xpi file to wordpress – it’s an executable file so I understand.   Please email me at cbrown@landmark.edu and I can send it as an attachment to an email in reply  and please let me know if you how to make an .xpi file live in a post…Thank you,  Candace
Clickspeak User Manual

Click,Speak FAQ’s

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Eztextreader

ezTextReader
ezTextReader is a free application that runs in the system tray and allows the user to read just about any text that is selected in the active window by left mouse clicking on the ezTextReader tray icon from KnLSoftware.  It says that version 1.0  works on Windows 2000/Vista/XP and I haven’t tried it with Windows 7. It was incredibly easy as advertised, I need to test it with a PDF.  Stay tuned.  So far, this has been the easiest and most convenient text reader as it will read the web, word docs, and open PDF’s.
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FireVox

fire vox

FireVox
A free extension from FireFox for people who are blind.  For sighted people, the spoken announcement of elements and events can be annoying.

FireVox Tutorial

FireVox Users Manual

Fire Vox is an open source, freely available talking browser extension for the Firefox web browser. Think of it as a screen reader that is designed especially for Firefox. Fire Vox is especially useful for the visually impaired or for web developers who need to test their web pages for accessibility.
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Natural Reader

Natural Reader
The free version of Natural Reader has many great features:
1. It can convert any written text such as MS Word, Webpage, PDF files, and Emails into spoken words with Microsoft voices.

2. Floating toolbar
FloatingBar

3. Change reading voices and speed

4.  You don’t have to copy and past text like other text-to-speech software. Just select any text and press one hot key.
5. Magnifying text- Simply scroll to the View menu and select Zoom In. This will magnify the text.
6. Text font can be changed  Font settings allow you to change the text font, font style and font size.
7. NaturalReader can also convert any written text into audio files such as MP3 or WAV for your CD player or iPod.
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Non Visual Desktop Access

Non Visual Desktop Access -NDVA NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free and open source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Providing feedback via synthetic speech and Braille, it enables blind or vision impaired people to access computers running Windows for no more cost than a sighted person. Major features include support for over 20 languages and the ability to run entirely from a USB drive with no installation.
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Orato

Orato from FxSoftware
You need to scroll down to about the middle of the page to get to the Orato download.  Fx Software has several other free assistive technology tools’ downloads on the site.

“A straight forward text to speech application. All text input is carried out through the clipboard. Settings allow Orato to read either on demand or automatically when new text is added to the clipboard. Other options will display the text if required, with highlighting of the word or sentence being spoken. Orato can either be installed to the hard disk or copied onto a USB drive for portable use.”
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Orca

ORCA
Orca is a free, open source scriptable screen reader. Using various combinations of speech, braille, and magnification, Orca helps provide access to applications and toolkits that support the AT-SPI (e.g., the GNOME desktop).
Orca has been favorably  compared to JAWS but it looks like you need to know exactly what platform your machine is running to download the correct version.  It is not one size fits all.
Orca’s Getting Starting Helps

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PowerTalk

PowerTalk
Is a free text to speech program for Microsoft’s Power Point.

“PowerTalk runs on Windows XP, VISTA, 7 (it should also work on NT 4.0 and Windows 2000).
You must have PowerPoint 2000 or later installed. Unfortunately the PowerPoint viewers are not useable as they do not provide the basic functionality that PowerTalk requires.”
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ReadPlease

ReadPlease
Features:
“Microsoft voices: Mike, Mary, Sam
Customize font and background colourReads text via Windows clipboard from any program (copy/paste)
Control reading from system tray
Reads e-mail emoticons such as :) or :(
Adjustable voice speed (rate)
Low vision colour option
ReadPlease Enable
your website”
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ReadtheWords

ReadtheWords

What is ReadTheWords.com?
ReadTheWords.com is a free, web based service that assists people with written material. We do this by using TTS Technology, or Text To Speech Technology. Users of our service can generate a clear sounding audio file from almost any written material. We generate a voice that reads the words out loud, that you request us to read.  There are downloads for both IE and Firefox which make me a little nervous about browser upgrades.  Kurzweil’s ReadtheWeb feature becomes defunct when Firefox gets a new version and you need to wait for Kurzweil to come up with a patch to fix the problem.

    • “Login and access your My Recordings page directly from the toolbar
    • Create recordings with a maximum limit of 6000 characters
    • Generate recordings as MP3 files that can be downloaded to your computer or stream the audio using an avatar
    • Once firefox restarts,right click on the top menubar and check the entries:RTW Toolbar and RTW Status Toolbar
    • You can control the reading speed by making it slower or faster using the new speed slider control”
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SoftiFreeOCR

SoftiFreeOC
“If you don’t have time to type a document, why not scan it and turn it into text instantly? Softi FreeOCR is a program that serves to interpret scanned documents and to turn them to editable text on your PC. If you have a lot of documents that you need to transfer to editable text, then this could save you hours of time.

Note that this program only detects English text. Softi FreeOCR, or rather Tesseract – the OCR motor that the program uses – only recognises English. However, you can add other languages by uploading them from the developer website and extracting the files to “the tessdata” folder which can be found within the program folder.

This is a decent attempt at a text reading program but unfortunately, it doesn’t always read documents correctly and has trouble with small text. Nevertheless, it can capture the majority of a document which will save you time.”
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Spoken Web

Spoken Web
Spoken-Web works only with Internet explorer browser on all Windows Operation SystemHere you will find a fully featured text to voice program that allows users to read text from a variety of sources and even to convert it to MP3 format. It has additional features that can let you get weather, stocks and news read aloud as well.
SpokenWeb Help
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Thunder

Thunder TTS
Thunder is award-winning free screenreader talking software for people with little or no sight. It works well with Windows 7, Vista or XP. Thunder is available all over the world in 8 languages and it really is absolutely free.
Thunder FAQ’s

Thunder Tutorials

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TypeIt ReadIt

TypeIt ReadIt
TypeitReadit video tutorial
…”can help users who are visually impaired, cannot read, desire to improve their reading comprehension, or just want to listen to their documents read aloud. TypeIt ReadIt can convert text to a spoken sound file by using its text-to-speech technology.  These sound files can be inserted into iTunes, CD, an iPod, PowerPoint, iMovie, Audacity or any other software or device that supports sound files. This can allow students, with speech difficulties, to place the sound files in their presentations, so, they can participate with lessons and class activities.”
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Universal Reader

Universal Reader  SourceForge.net hosts over 100,000 Open Source projects including Universal Reader

“A text to speech converter which will be able to read any document(Presently it is reading text and .doc files).The main aim of the project is to make reading an interesting task and assist BLIND people. “
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Word Talk

wordtalk iconWord Talk
WordTalk is a free text-to-speech plugin developed for use with all versions of Microsoft Word (from Word 97 up to Word 2010). It will speak the text of the document and will highlight it as it goes. It contains a talking dictionary to help decide which word spelling is most appropriate.

I had trouble finding the toolbar after the program was installed. You need to go to Start > All Programs and then select WordTalk, a window will appear asking if you want to add it to the word toolbar,  Select that option, then continue, and Finish.
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YakItToMeYakItToMe

“Free text reader. Listen to work documents, homework, PowerPoint presentations, emails, RSS feeds, blogs, books … while you relax, commute or exercise. Great for elearning, learning a new language, proofreading documents, multi-tasking and entertainment. YAKiToMe! speaks English, Spanish, French, German … with male and female voices using the world’s best text to speech (TTS) software technologies.”
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15 Responses to Free Text to Speech Options

  1. Pingback: Review of Free TTS Screen Text Readers «

  2. Tracy says:

    Hi Candace: It looks like iSpeech isn’t allowing new users to register anymore, just offering contact info to potential commercial users. It’s too bad. The little demo they let you do with a snippet of text on their front page was very impressive. It seemed to rival Kurzweil for the naturalness of the speech.
    http://www.ispeech.org/sign.up.php

  3. Pingback: Free / Low-cost software | Technology Options for Special Needs

  4. atpdc says:

    Hello, while I have started collecting free/low cost software for students with special needs, I found your site. So I added your blog site to link to my site. Please let me know if you would like to work together to find resources.

  5. Nick Braley says:

    I was wondering if anyone could help me with a problem I’m having with the latest version of Firefox I thank it is. I used click speak for a screen reader on the older version of firefox and I loved it. I had to reinstall Firefox and now click speak doesn’t work. Can anyone help me either fix it so I can use click speck or recommend any other good screen readers like click speck. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  6. Excellent, I’ll be sharing this with my bloggers.

  7. Erica Cook says:

    I have a couple of classes where text for the book or text for assignments and tests are not selectable. they are images of text not text. No one will admit this is an issue and I still have to have the work done on time. DO you know any reader that will help with this? Money is a serious issue too, so for free would be best.

  8. wilheard says:

    Providing speech to your web page is really easy with speech over, the assistance that produces the sound edition of your web material, enhancing its availability, making it more helpful for an even bigger viewers, displaying your proper want to people who may have problems in studying, or who simply choose hearing.

    Regards http://www.tingwo.co/

    • digitaltext says:

      Thank you for sending me this. I’m in the process of redoing the page and links so this is timely. Candace

  9. Angel Smith says:

    Not only can help you to pick out mistakes, but also can give you a good sense of the natural flow of what you have written.

    tts online

  10. Jeni says:

    Great list, your Orato link isn’t working but I know you said you were in the process of in the process of redoing the page and links.

  11. abhishek says:

    If you have text in audio format, the greatest advantage is that you can carry it anywhere with you in your phone. I like reading ebooks but cant always carry my laptop or tablet. Now there are lots of tools that lets you convert text to speech online

  12. What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon
    this I have discovered It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads.
    I’m hoping to contribute & assist different users like its helped me. Great job.

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